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The subcontinent of India lies in south Asia, between Pakistan, China and Nepal. To the north it is bordered by the world's highest mountain chain, where foothill valleys cover the northernmost of the country's 26 states. Further south, plateaus, tropical rain forests and sandy deserts are bordered by palm fringed beaches.
Side by side with the country's staggering topographical variations is its cultural diversity, the result of the coexistence of a number of religions as well as local tradition. Thus, the towering temples of south India, easily identifiable by their ornately sculptured surface, are associated with a great many crafts and performing arts of the region.
In the desert of Kutch, Gujarat, on the other hand, a scattering of villages pit themselves against the awesome forces of nature, resulting in Spartan lifestyles made vibrant by a profusion of jewelry and ornamental embroidery used to adorn apparel and household linen. In the extreme north is the high altitude desert of Ladakh. Local culture is visibly shaped by the faith - Buddhism -as well as by the harsh terrain. Yet another facet of Indian culture is observed in the colorful tribal lifestyles of the north eastern states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur with their folk culture.
In the central Indian states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh tribal village life has resulted in a variety of artistically executed handicrafts.
India's mountains provide heli skiing, river running, mountaineering and trekking. Its beaches provide lazy sun-bathing as well as wind surfing and snorkeling, and its jungles provide shooting wildlife -with a camera.
A Storied History
India's history goes back to 3,200 BC when Hinduism was first founded. Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism. Judaism. Zoroashtrianism, Christianity and Islam all exist within the country today. As a consequence of India's size, the history of the country has seldom been the same for two adjoining territories, and its great natural wealth has lured a succession of traders and foreign influences to it, each having left their imprint in the country, however faint or localized. Thus, Chinese fishing nets in Kerala are a throwback to that country's ancient maritime trade, while in the north, terra-cotta figurines of the centuries BC bear distinctly Greek traces.
A Conversation Piece
Modern India is home alike to the tribal with his anachronistic lifestyle and to the sophisticated urban jetsetter. It is a land where temple elephants exist amicably with the microchip. Its ancient monuments are the backdrop for the world's largest democracy where atomic energy is generated and industrial development has brought the country within the world's top ten nations. Today, fishermen along the country's coastline fashion simple fishing boats in a centuries old tradition while, a few miles away. motor vehicles glide off conveyor belts in state-of-the-art factories.